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501 posts categorized "Current Affairs" Feed

June 01, 2012

'Courageous Conversations,' With Art, Launch in St. Johnsbury

559549_272058466226794_1285184283_nThis month Catamount Arts begins a series called "Courageous Conversations" that will address somber issues "facing the nation in general and the Northeast Kingdom in particular," says an announcement from director Jody Fried. Poverty, mental health and disabilities are the general topics for June, July and August, respectively.

So what's the art part?

Artists have long tackled weighty topics using a variety of media, and the "Conversations" series follows suit. Catamount is augmenting its live community/panel discussions with relevant films on Monday evenings and visual-art exhibits in the organization's Eastern Avenue gallery.

Continue reading "'Courageous Conversations,' With Art, Launch in St. Johnsbury" »

April 02, 2012

Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington

Daisey4An anecdote in "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," the monologue about Apple by Mike Daisey, took on a new resonance on Saturday night. It's the part in which Daisey is in China, planning out his visit to a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen where electronics are built for Apple and other electronics companies. Daisey tells his translator that he's not a businessman — he just plans to pose as one to get into the factory. The translator, Cathy, asks him if he's going to lie. Daisey reples, "Yes, Cathy. I'm going to lie to lots of people."

When Daisey spoke that line at the Flynn Center during his performance, it seemed to hang in the air a little. Not as long as the painfully drawn-out pauses when Ira Glass was eviscerating him on "This American Life," but long enough to let it sink in. I heard a couple audience members chuckle under their breath.

Saturday night marked Daisey's second "Agony and Ecstasy" performance since "This American Life" busted him for inventing and embellishing some details about his trip to Apple's Chinese factories in his ostensibly nonfiction monologue. It was his first in a couple of weeks, since the scandal began to cool down and Daisey had a chance to rethink and rework parts of the monologue.

Sure enough, there were some differences: The guards at the factory gates didn't have guns. Daisey didn't meet a 12-year-old worker. He did not claim that someone saw his iPad turn on and called it "a kind of magic." Daisey did still say that his taxicab came to a stop at a highway exit that ended in midair.

Somewhat surprisingly, Daisey did not address the controversy directly in his monologue. It wasn't until after the show, during a Q&A with Flynn Center executive director John Killacky and UVM Lane Series director Natalie Neuert, that the scandal actually came up — and even then, no one simply said, "Mike got in trouble a few weeks back because he said untrue things on 'This American Life' and Ira Glass really didn't take kindly to it."

Continue reading "Mike Daisey Returns to the Stage in Burlington" »

March 19, 2012

Montpelier Playwright Tackles Ridgeline Wind Debate

DSC_3248Feuding neighbors. Life-altering decisions. High tempers and even higher stakes. If Vermont’s pitched debate about ridgeline wind power doesn’t have the makings of a drama, I don’t know what does.

Lesley Becker thought so, too. The Montpelier playwright turned to the conversation about wind power in the Northeast Kingdom for inspiration for her latest play, Winds of Change. The play makes its debut on March 27 as part of the Fourth Tuesday Reading Series sponsored by the Vermont Playwrights Circle

Becker’s recipe goes something like this: Take one powerful utility company, add a landowner who has fallen on hard times, and mix. Her two-act play examines life in a town not unlike Lowell, Vt., before and after the installation of a utility-scale wind project. 

Becker stumbled on the story largely by happenstance. She works as a prevention coalition coordinator in the Northeast Kingdom, and about two years ago she was helping a group of teens in Craftsbury design a media campaign to discourage underage drinking. That’s how she found herself at a select board meeting where she heard an expert testify about the proposed Kingdom Community Wind project, now well on its way to completion.

“I was very inspired by the local people who were willing to take on this battle between the little guys and the big guys,” says Becker. She has an opinion — and not a favorable one — about the Lowell wind development, and expects that readers will pick up on the bias in her play. Becker says she didn't come at the project as journalist, but instead as a playwright trying to tease out the experiences of people living in and around the proposed project — those in favor and those against. 

Becker has been writing plays for eight or nine years, by her estimation, though she established a background in theater earlier in her life. She turned her back on that world for a time, disillusioned about theater’s relevancy.

“It seemed like theater was very far from what was important to anybody and what could make a difference,” she says.

She’s changed her tune now, having regained some faith in what the medium — and, she hopes, Winds of Change — can do. 

“I want to try to honor the people [in Lowell], and shed some light on the issues,” Becker says. “It would be very powerful and effective if it got out to enough people to be educational.”

Becker’s play will be read by a contingent of actors on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier. The event is free and open to the public.

Photo by Kathryn Flagg

February 22, 2012

Dems Ask Attorney General to Investigate Campaign For Vermont for Violating Election Laws

LismanThe Vermont Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the attorney general's office accusing the right-leaning adovcacy group Campaign For Vermont of violating campaign finance laws by running radio ads attacking Gov. Peter Shumlin.

In a letter dated February 21, Democratic Party executive director Jesse Bragg asks Attorney General William Sorrell, a Democrat, to investigate the group and its founder, retired Wall Street executive Bruce Lisman (pictured), for failing to register as a political committee while running ads meant to influence the 2012 governor's race.

Campaign For Vermont, which calls itself a nonpartisan coalition advocating for a more prosperous Vermont, has been saturating local talk radio stations with ads narrated by Lisman that call for lower taxes and criticize Shumlin's plans for establishing a statewide universal health care program.

The Dems have scheduled a Statehouse press conference for 10:15 a.m. tomorrow to discuss the complaint. Download the complaint letter.

Ironically, the Democrats are using a relatively recent court ruling that went against them to make the case that Lisman's group has run afoul of the law. Bragg writes that Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford's decision in Vermont v. Green Mountain Future "essentially held that an advertisement, costing more than $500 and ran within a year of the election, that reasonably refers to a candidate triggers political committee status. Clearly, the hypercritical and inaccurate declarations contained in the Campaign for Vermont radio advertisement are directed at candidate Shumlin as opposed to merely Governor Shumlin's legislative agenda."

Continue reading "Dems Ask Attorney General to Investigate Campaign For Vermont for Violating Election Laws" »

February 09, 2012

Vermonters Are Saying "Save Our Swine!"

CowpigTime was when calling a cop a "pig" was enough to get a nightstick to your noggin — or worse — in some jurisdictions. But after the recent revelation by the Burlington Free Press that as many as 30 Vermont State Police cruisers have been unwittingly sporting a porcine portrait deftly concealed in the most sacred of Vermont's sacred cows, the joke's been on them. Online, the story has gone more viral than swine flu.

Whereas most of Vermont's law enforcement have taken the insult in stride and politely chuckled about the creative handiwork of the as-yet unidentified prison inmate, the Shumlin administration immediately swung into action and called for the immediate de-porking of all VSP patrol cars — at an estimated price tag of $780.

Enter the Facebook "Save our Pigs" campaign. Local radio announcer, TJ Michaels and local musician Cid Sinclair have organized a campaign to get the governor to handle the matter "in a manner more consistent with Vermont's famous laid-back demeanor." The group has now swelled to well over 500 members and an online petition has garnered more than 200 signatures in just a few days.

"The public response has been incredible and strongly in our favor," says Sinclair, in a press statement this afternoon. "The outpouring of support from law enforcement across the country, and literally from around the world, has been the biggest surprise thus far. I think folks generally feel like the Shumlin administration is missing an opportunity to have some fun and acknowledge an awesomely played prank. Vermont has a tradition and history of quirky events that are a part of what makes us unique as Vermonters. People feel like this should be revered as another chapter in that tradition."

No word back from the Shumlin folks yet as to whether they think this campaign is kosher. Stay tuned.

Photo courtesy Vermont State Police

January 19, 2012

Ag Activist Balks at Popular "Working Lands" Bill


Top among Vermonters’ values is this: Ninety-seven percent of residents in the state say the “working landscape” is key to Vermont’s future. 

That’s according to questions asked in 2008 and 2009 by the Council on the Future of Vermont, which conducted what they’re calling the most comprehensive survey of Vermonters’ values in the state’s history. More so than any other value, Vermonters could agree on the fact that supporting farm- and forestland is important. Now, champions of the new “Working Lands Enterprise Investment Bill” are parlaying that support into a plan that backers say could revitalize Vermont’s farm and forestry economies.

The bill (known by Statehouse followers as H.496/S.246), is currently being reviewed by the House ag and commerce committes and the Senate ag and economic development committees. When the bill cropped up for a public hearing last night in Montpelier, the mood in the Statehouse meeting room was overwhelmingly supportive.

Groton farmers market manager Mary Berlejung said she’d watched farmland disappear first on Long Island, then in Fairfax County, Va., and didn’t want to see the same thing happen in Vermont. Montpelier resident and well-known writer Tom Slayton called the bill a “bold step” that would protect the working landscape that he called a signature of the state. From Bethel resident Carl Russell came this: “It’s about time.”

So… what’s not to like?

Continue reading "Ag Activist Balks at Popular "Working Lands" Bill" »

Judge Rules in Favor of Entergy in Vermont Yankee Case; Plant May Operate Beyond 2012

Vy-picEntergy has won a preliminary injunction against the state of Vermont to keep the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant open beyond March of this year. U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha handed down the decision this afternoon, ruling that the federal Atomic Energy Act preempts state law.

Staff writer Andy Bromage will have more on this story later this evening.

Click here to view the full 102-page ruling.

Here's Gov. Peter Shumlin's statement on the decision:

"I am very disappointed in today’s ruling from the federal court. Entergy has not been a trustworthy partner with the state of Vermont. Vermont Yankee needed legislative approval 40 years ago. The plant received approval to operate until March, 2012. I continue to believe that it is in Vermont's best interest to retire the plant. I will await the Attorney General’s review of the decision to comment further on whether the state will appeal."

January 09, 2012

Burlington Lawyer Fred Lane to U.S. Supreme Court: Let the Obscenities Fly!

CarlinIn 1973, legendary comedian George Carlin waded nutsack-deep into legal hot water with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after a New York City public radio station, WBAI-FM, broadcast his now-infamous routine, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," from his live stand-up comedy album, Occupation: Fool. For the young and/or uniformed, Carlin's seven dirty words are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

Shortly thereafter, a man who claimed his young son heard Carlin's 12-minute pants-shittingly funny monologue while riding in a car filed a complaint with the FCC against WBAI and the Pacifica Foundation, which ran WBAI. (Click here for a complete transcript of Carlin's monologue, courtesy of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. And you thought constitutional law was a snooze...)

The FCC subsequently censured Pacifica and WBAI. But Pacifica, the oldest public radio network in the country, challenged the FCC action in federal court on First Amendment grounds. Over the next five years, the case wound its way through the courts until, on July 3, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in FCC v. Pacifica Foundationthat Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" were "indecent but not obscene." Translation: You can't say those dirty words on broadcast radio or TV during hours when young and impressionable ears might be listening.

Continue reading "Burlington Lawyer Fred Lane to U.S. Supreme Court: Let the Obscenities Fly!" »

December 16, 2011

Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill

LeahyVermont's U.S. senators parted ways last night over whether to support the $662 billion Pentagon spending bill, a sweeping piece of legislation that includes provisions civil libertarians fear will allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism rather than allow them a constitutional right to trial.

Citing concerns with the size of the budget bill, along with the indefinite detention provisions, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill — one of just 13 senators to do so.

After an unsuccessful attempt to strip the bill of the indefinite detention language, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) voted yes, helping to pass the defense bill by a vote of 83-to-13 late Thursday night.

"At a time when we have tripled defense spending since 1997 and spend more today on defense than the rest of the world combined, I get concerned that my deficit-hawk friends say we’ve got to cut Social Security, Medicare, education, health care and other programs that help working families, but when it comes to defense spending the sky is the limit," said Sanders in a statement.

Continue reading "Indefinite Detention? Vermont's Senators Split on Support for Defense Spending Bill" »

December 13, 2011

Welch Joins Last-Minute Call to Strip Indefinite-Detention Provision from Defense Bill

220208gitmoRep. Peter Welch has joined 36 House members in challenging controversial provisions — namely, those that would allow the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists — contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The proposed legislation, argue Welch and others, "authorizes indefinite military detention of suspected terrorists without protecting U.S. citizens’ right to trial."

Hey, what's a little indefinite detention between friends?

A letter was recently submitted to the House and Senate conferees (see full text below) in an attempt to turn back some of the bill's most egregious violations of constitutional rights, Welch said.

Continue reading "Welch Joins Last-Minute Call to Strip Indefinite-Detention Provision from Defense Bill" »

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